Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Dirty Babies

I missed this Vegas garage phenom when they were playing around town (even being at shows that they played but missing them cuz they were first) but am now lucky enough to have drummer Lenny Ribaudo in the Swamp Gospel and have seen guitarist Kei's terrific punk'n'roll combos The Tinglerz and Tiger Sex many times. I never got to know lead singer/guitarist Jaime or bassist Brew, but their contributions here show their talents, as well.

The record has all kinds of coolness, from the garage mania of "Bad Girls Go to Hell" (great, snotty vocals and harmonies on this one), to the NY Dolls-y "You Won't Like What You Find" (nice dual leads), pounding trash'n'roll in "County Jail", Ramones-y stomp in "Experimental Medicine", frenetic energy in "Bitch Reaction" (superb, blazing lead guitar here), slightly more traditional garage in "Drivin' Me Mad", the punky "Up All Night" and the Stooges steal in "Don't Make Me Show You My Dark Side".

The flip gives us more 70's power stylings in "Born to be Weird", nice riff thievery in "Dying Every Day", more rock'n'stomp in "(I Freaked Out On) LSD", cool dynamics and Ramones-isms for "I, Derelict", a complete Dolls rip ("You Won't Be Missed"), loud'n'snotty garage ("All Night Long") and ending with a moodier, minor-key piece of spookiness, "Burn the Witch".

Fine, fine stuff - makes me wish I had caught them live - must have been smokin'!

The Last Drive - Underworld Shakedown

The 80's were a wonderful time for rock'n'roll, believe it or not, as musicians from all around the
world revolted against the revolting pap that dominated the airwaves during the decade. The garage scene was particularly strong and groups the world over participated, even in the ancient isle of Greece!

The Last Drive consisted of Alex K on voice/bass, George and Nick on guitars and Chris B.I. on drums and they made a name for themselves with their own brand of noisy garage, as evidenced in this debut, Underworld Shakedown. Opening with a twisted surf-y instrumental ("Me 'N My Wings"), they then move into more of their own sound with the moody take on the 60's, "Valley of Death". Alex fires up "Poison", that drives somewhat frantically with reverbed guitar licks, fuzz feedback and appropriate shrieks. Continuing with their love for surf, they blast through "Misirlou" before an echo-drenched original, "This Fire Inside", another rocker with more slick guitar lines. A sublime highlight is their overload of feedback on "Blue Moon", sounding like the Dream Syndicate and the Velvet Underground on acid producing a soundtrack for a David Lynch movie! This is really pretty goddam awesome and has to be heard to be believed! Fantastic!

Turn over the LP and you get the staccato-riffed "Sidewalk Stroll", a Link Wray-ish bit of (mostly) instrumental noir before the more traditional garage-stylings of "The Shade of Fever". There's a "Bad Little Woman" vibe to the slower, keyboard-laden "Every Night", complete with dynamics and their own crunchy guitars and then the Drive do a fierce take on the classic "Night of the Phantom". More wondrous, cacophonous noise and feedback dominate "Repulsion", even as it becomes a cool, simple, drivin' tune.

Really terrific and original sounding album and band. Well worth searching out!

Jinxy Bear, Pale Antique, Water Landing and 3d6 at the Adrenaline Bar, Nov 22, 2014

I always liked the Cheyenne Saloon due to its location (just a few minutes away from my house!) and its large stage, good sound and strong drinks! But, the type of bands that would normally play here - mostly new metal groups - were not my cup of hemlock, so I wouldn't venture out too often. It is now rebranded as the Adrenaline Sports Bar - I know, as if Vegas needed more sports bars! - with a slightly improved stage, still good sound and still strong drinks! But this evening there were a  number of interesting acts that got me out of the house to check it out.

Acoustic maestro Jinxy Bear opened the festivities and for this gig he included a drummer - I didn't catch his name, though I see he goes by the FB moniker Billdozer - which added to the dynamics and funkiness of the songs and allowed Jinx to stretch things out a bit more and even drop down to just vocals and drums, which was a nice touch. He did several of his regular hits - "Elevator Bob", "Discounts for Locals", "Bananas" and a newer one, "What the Hell", in which he utilized a second vocal mic with effects that he could control. Jinx is a unique talent and he shows are always varied  and ya never know who's gonna be on stage with him. Check him out!

Up next was Pale Antique, who was simply Josh, the lead guitarist from Candy Warpop, doing a solo thing - just him and his guitar presenting some kinda drone-y Psychedelic Furs-ish tunes. The guitar tone would vary from clean strumming to noisy fuzz and his voice was a low monotone (he admitted that he's not really a singer). I could imagine the songs working better with a band, but he kept the folks entertained.

Water Landing is a relatively new group that I seem to just keep missing, so made an extra effort this time to catch this unique combo. The line-up is interesting - Eric on guitar/lead vocals, Daniel on bass, Ron on drums, then things get a bit different - Ellen taking the instrumental leads on keys and violin (zebra striped, matching her dress) and Jules on backing vocals and laundry! Yes, she folds and irons shirts as she sings - but I was disappointed to see that the iron wasn't even plugged in! Or is it wireless?!

There's a lot of silliness in the set, from the airline jokes (where the band name comes from) to goofy songs like "Ball Pit", "I'm Special" and "Water Landing is Punk Rock" (which they are not, really). Highlights for me were the duet that Eric and Jules did (didn't catch the title) and the Modern Lovers/Violent Femmes-esque closer, in which the guys tumble to the floor and Jules throws panties from the laundry basket at them before dumping the whole hamper on them!

Not sure how to describe these folks - but see them for a humorously rockin' diversion!

Self-proclaimed nerd-punks 3d6 followed with their set of geek-themed punk pop tunes about Dungeons and Dragons, video games, comics, sci-fi and masturbating in space! They performed a number of the songs from their CD - "Star Wars", "I Killed a Dragon", "Whore of Enterprise D" (you can see their animated video for this one here ), "R.P.G." and more, as well as newer ones - not sure if I caught the titles right - think there was "Masturbation Station" and "Robot Overlords" as well as one where they did a binary breakdown! Everyone's playing is solid - some flashy guitar licks from Dave, solid bass from Anthony and fast'n'furious drumming from Rudy (who they share with the Time Crashers). If you are a punk rock geek, then this is the band for you!

Hopefully, the Adrenaline Bar will have more cool nights like this one so that it gains a reputation as a fun place to see bands. People came out for this and it would be nice to have a r'n'r hang-out on our side of town!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chicken Snake - Trouble on my Doorstep

Not sure where this album sits in their trilogy, but here Pauline, Jerry'n'Josh are aided and abetted by Nicholas Ray on guitar and electric piano and Danny Hole on drums. It's more damn good, raw'n'rockin' blues, though.

The opener "Loathsome Blues" is kinda a blend of trashy, early Stones blues while "Hey Man" is a rocker, with some cool guitar interaction - dig the fuzz! "Doctor Doctor" has almost a Bo Diddley feel, with cool dobro, wailin' blues harp and plenty of energy. A circular guitar lick pulls ya into "If the Creek Don't Rise", which has more slippery slide intertwinin' with layers of guitar licks while the drums swing and shake and hold it all together - really terrific mess of swampy noise.

Flip over the vinyl and you get a poppier Dylan number "I Am a Lonesome Hobo" - gotta dig the harmonies on this one! But, they still have some nasty fuzz guitar and shriekin' harp, to give the proceedings some blues. With a nod to the theme to "Land of the Giants", they give us "Chained and Bound", with some psychedelic vibrations in the background of this one, then there's the rockin' Bo Diddley-esque "Hogback Road (Route 666)", that also has some hints of the beginnings of the Rollin' Stones. Serpentine sounds, tremelo'd guitars, some hip noise and a lick reminiscent of "Ballad of a Thin Man" fill out "Alabama Diamondback" and a chooglin' rhythm fires up "Fortune Teller Blues', for a grand finale.

There ain't nothin' that I dislike about this gang - great songs, great playin', great tones - this is some of the best swampy blues that I've heard in ages (right up there with Hopeless Jack and the Handsome Devil). Get it!

Chicken Snake - Unholy Rollers

Not sure when I first hear or heard of Chicken Snake, but I believe it was through mutual friends on
Facebook (which right there means that FB is alright by me!). This New Orleans combo includes husband'n'wife team Pauline and Jerry Teel (both sing, Pauline does percussion, Jerry - guitar, harp, bass, organ) along with guitarist Josh Lee Hooker and Jessica Melain on minimalistic drums. Their sound is swampy, voodoo-y blues with an edge - kinda like a mix of Junior Kimbrough and the Cramps - with their own twists'n'turns mixed in.

This is their latest release (I believe that they have three total) and here they thank Baron Samedi and Papa Legba, so you have no doubts where they're coming from. Right from the start, with "Yer Poison", the sound is hypnotic, with a cool groove, nice organ, and amazing sounding guitars (they got the old blues tones down) along with super harmonies. They do a drivin', poundin' take on "Don't Let the Devil Ride" (which my band, the Swamp Gospel, used to do, albeit quite differently), then a slower, swampy blues called "Bad Blood Blues", with some fine, atmospheric slide guitar (and ghostly sound effects) and a heartbeat pulse kickin' it along. Man, this stuff is so damn good and so hard to effectively put into words - the sound isn't like anyone else I know of these days. Another simple chord progression and infectious drum rhythm propels a cover, "Cowgirl Blues" (I'm not familiar with the original) and then they add some fierce, chainsaw fuzz for dynamics on "Empty Box" that works around a cool, cleaner guitar lick, not unlike the Cramps did, though, as I said, this is their own sound.

Side two opens with another minimal guitar riff, a wicked scream, some vicious fuzz (a bluesier Velvet Underground or something) and a monster tune, "Ain't No Liar", that is followed by "Evermore", with more ultra-hip, big-hollow-body guitars working off of each other while the Teels continue with their interlocking vocal harmonies (this ain't pretty pop here, but blends wonderfully) and they trip ya up with some rhythmic changes. The stompin' "Nothin' Ain't Right" has some fine Lou-Reed-meets-Dave-Davies guitar leads, while the whole thing has a kinda Velvet-feel again - now that I think about it, the guitar tones are similar to early Lou/Sterling and the drums aren't far off from Mo. T'ain't nothin' wrong with any of that, though! The voodoo-themed "Crazy Mama" continues in this vein, while "Wrongheaded Man" is driven by a hip, descending slide guitar and some howlin' blues harp. "Nightmare Pt. 2" puts all of their elements together for another stunner while the closer, "Daddy's Gone Blues" is a slower, moodier piece with more haunting sounds in the background.

Look, I know that I rant'n'rave about a lot of different stuff - I just love music, and enjoy a wide variety - but if you're looking for modern, swampy blues, this is a good as it gets, and you should gets this!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

recommended gigs

Thursday Nov 20 - the Astaires at the Beauty Bar with Strange Mistress, Bounty Hunter Brothers and Luna Flore

Friday Nov 21 - Whiskey Breath at the Goldmine Tavern
Friday Nov 21 - Tarah Grace @ Vintage Bike Night at Bar & Bistro

Saturday Nov 22 - the Unwieldies with Roy Zimmerman at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas
Saturday Nov 22 - Jinxy Bear, 3D6, Water Landing and more! - Cheyenne Saloon
Saturday Nov 22 - the All Togethers at the Double Down w/ the Ditch Diggers
Saturday Nov 22 - Push Forward Benefit at the Dive Bar

Wednesday Nov 26 - the Unwieldies at the Griffin with the All Togethers
Wednesday Nov 26 - Thee Swank Bastards Basstravaganza at the Double Down

Friday Nov 28 - Deadbolt, the Heiz, Frank & Deans for the Double Down Anniversary Show

Saturday Nov 29 - The Heiz and the Vermin and FSP at the Double Down

Friday Dec 5 - the Unwieldies at Boomers
Friday Dec 5 - the All Togethers at Dillingers

Saturday Dec 6 - Love Me Nots at the Double Down with the Vermin

Friday Dec 12 - Delta Bombers, Hard Pipe Hitters, Mercy Music, Firewater Folklore, In Fugue Rayner at Artistic Armory

Saturday Dec 13 - the Psyatics at the Double Down

Wednesday Dec 17 - Clydesdale  with Blair Dewane at the Griffin

Saturday Dec 20 - The Swamp Gospel and The Gentlemen of Four Outs at the Double Down Saloon

Saturday Dec 27 - the All Togethers at the Pioneer Saloon

Saturday Jan 10, 2015 - the Psyatics and the Lucky Cheats with the Dictators NYC at LV Country Saloon

What have I forgotten? Lemme know!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Ditch Diggers, Eddy Bear and the Cubs, Cash'd Out at the Beauty Bar, Friday Nov 14

The Beauty Bar often caters to crowd younger than me, but they continue to put on solid shows that I can dig, such as this evening of roots/rockabilly/country and plain ol' rock'n'roll. Of course, it didn't hurt that my band, the Swamp Gospel, opened the show!

Right after the SG, local rockabilly trio the Ditch Diggers came on to an appreciative, full crowd who swang their roots rock ravings. Roman's biting Tele led the way, Ron's stand-up bass grooved (he even got a bass solo!), and Jomar's (ex Mad Daddies/Tommyknockers) snappy backbeat holds everything together.
Eddy Bear and the Cubs have gotten more than their fair share of rantin' here, but they are one of my fave bands in town and the revolving line-up keeps things fresh from show to show. This evening neither lead guitarist Brian or Wade could make it, but steel player Joel was there to fill in the solos and ex-Pigasus drummer (and Beauty Bar employee) Danny sat in with them as their regular drummer got into a car accident that day!

The guys still put in a fine set of their usual tunes - "Little Sister", "Ooh, Las Vegas", "Goin' Down", etc. - but with Joel's steel playing taking front'n'center - and with a lot more grit'n'dirt than his usual tone - the tunes were given a new life. Don't know if they were actually inebriated by the time they played, but they appeared to be drunkenly animated, in a fun, swingin' way. Totally enjoyable set and at the end - apparently because Danny didn't know how to finish the tune - Larry handed Danny his guitar mid-song and took the drum throne to smash out the finale as Joel man-handled his steel guitar. No better honky-tonkin' in town!

Headlining the evening was a Johnny Cash tribute act, San Diego's Cash'd Out, featuring Douglas Benson on acoustic guitar and lead vocals (and he really does sound like Johnny), Kevin Manuel on guitar, Ryan Thomas on stand up and George Bernardo on drums, along with a female vocalist/guitarist who would sit in for June Carter, whose name I did not catch.

According to their FB page, the group has a repertoire of at least 150 of Johnny's tunes and caters their set to the crowd they are playing for. This evening they mainly stuck to the early, more rockabilly numbers, though even the later songs were given a raw and rockin' treatment. The set included songs like "Rock Island Line", "Me and Bobby McGee", "Boy Named Sue" (nice, minimal, r'n'r arrangements for both of these), "I've Been Everywhere", Dylan's "It Ain't Me", several Carter Family songs that their "June" joined them for ("Wildwood Flower", "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", "Worried Man"), along with "Ring of Fire" and, of course, "Jackson". Although it wasn't an overly late show, after working and playing, we were a bit beat and took off before they finished.

Tribute acts can be a bit iffy, but this is done well, with respect but also with some fire and passion. Good night all around!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kenne Highland Interview Part Three

Here Kenne reveals how and why he left rock'n'roll - and returned - and his current role as a Gizmo, as well as Boston band-leader, as well as plans and dreams for the future. (The photos are fairly random here - just found some that I liked on his Facebook page!)

Can you list any special gigs over the years?

" special gigs: It's always them early ones, o' course and Gizmos live at Bloomington Public Library and Afrika Korps live at Cantones on Gulcher define it; no matter whatever else I play "when I was 21, it was a very good year!" (as lame as that reference is, even in 1978, I WAS thinkin' 'bout Frank Sinatra during Ramones/Sex Pistols! And yes, I WAS amused amused by Sid's version of "My Way"! To rephrase L. Reed to L. Bangs in '75 Creem, re: Bryan Ferry: "(Snort); John Ritchie....he was cute for a while" ("I'm up on the 13th floor with Eddie and the Cruisers below"...that's not the lyrics! Free-stylin' Kenne Highland strikes again! (AT LARGE!)..hmm Bowie and KEN Scott...I like them Ken references)......

You told me that you quit playing r'n'r for a while - why? What made you start again?

"to make a long story short, Christina Angell (RIP) heard Silver Leaf Gospel Singers on the radio (I ALWAYS listen to gospel on Sundays!), we went to see them in the 'hood, I knew a couple brothers from blues jams, went to church, sat in, got "recruited" (willingly), did a Lil Richard, QUIT playin' rocknroll for a bit, but damn, man, playin' gospel in the 'hood as the only white guy (e.g. the drummer in Chambers brothers; saw 'em on tv and always wanted to be THAT white guy, all-black band, a reverse Hendrix maybe) Bim from Obnox sez "testify!". I DID have an epiphany at one gospel concert, and the reverend (from Georgia; I pull the Virginia birth card in the 'hood and yes, I DID have slave-owning ancestors BUT wasn't MLK all about the descendants of slaves and slave-owners, in unity etc. singin' "none but the righteous" a cappella; man, this WAS middle passage come to life!), the preacher said "I done planted a seed"= I thought; "ok, sumpin' gonna happen with music", so yes, we, the Gizmos, ARE blessed to alive and playin' the Devil's Music together! (Gee Julie HAS pointed out the dichotomy of me preaching Baptist dogma and then bein' caught between sin and Eddie Flowers HAS said "Kenne, you're in full Jerry Lee mode" AND (read Hellfire by Nick Tosches!), like Jerry Lee and Elvis, I AM my own cuzzin! Plus Ma sez they had a baby shower for me at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, Garrisonville, Virginny obviously after my bris when I was 3 days old..."Carry Me back to Ole Virginny"- Jerry Lee's version!.....

What do you make of the Gizmos resurgence?

"what do i make of the Gizmos resurgence? As I told Be-Bop-A-Shepherd on NPR in Bloomington, maybe "well, it's about damn tyme"! Man, those Brockport muthafuckas usedta mock me like Jesus H. Christ and to Sweet Betsy from Bloomongton, I went on an anti-bullying rant and in the end decided : oh,yeah! Mofos! This is the revenge of the fucken nerds!" For every muthafucka that fucked with me in jr. high, picked me last for baseball, all that shit: kiss my muthafucken ass! (hmm, you can tell GG Allin and I are cuzzins!) But moving forward, now I got respect from both honkies AND the gospel music of colour audience, basically, I WON, but I done it "With God on our side" to quote Dylan. I didn't die/o.d./quit like other, sadly, band members, I lissen to Lyres "Don't Give It Up Now" as a holy MANTRA and I didn't give it up now and, if you watch all those Highlander movies (Rob Roy/Brave Highland etc.), I'm cheap and I'm stubborn and I'm a "Brockport NY punk/and I always get my way". But again, notwitstanding mofos LAFFIN' OUT LOUD in '76 "YOU made a record?", this younger generation of kids, young enuff to be my young'uns, I DO thank God that I lived long enuff, that like Slim and the Supreme Angels sing: "give me my flowers while i'm livin'"! To which I add a lil richard "ooooooo" and a Bim/Obnox in Cleveland parking lot: "TESTIFY!!!!!".....

What plans do you have for the future?

"what plans do i have for the Future/Now, if I'm willing to pay the price? same answer I gave Lincoln D. Kirk in 1979 for FFFFFFFFANNNNNNZEEEEENNNN, which was keep a-rockin' like Lil Richard/Jerry Lee. Do the Gizmos and the Korps til we die. Probably retire and move back down South, but again, my dad was in the Corps 14 years, wanted to retire at 20, and before that fatal SEARCH AND DESTROY mission, his famous last words to his troops (and it's online): "watch out for "landmines" (the Jumper Cables 45 that turnt Mad Max onto Krazee Ken!) Dad was always volunteering for dangerous missions to "make a name for himself", Ma said; me, I only volunteer for dangerous GIGS and missions to PLAY "Search and Destroy", so, if like Jacques Brel (Bowie b-side!) it's "My Death", so be it...dyin' on stage with me kilt on, he was a warrior/poet, he was a Highlander.......


That's Krazee Kenne Highland! If you think readin' it is krazee - try talkin' to him in person! But see the man play, either in any of his Boston configurations or on the road with the Gizmos. Age may have made him physically slow down, but he still plays and sings like his heroes (a straight Iggy/Thunders/Kramer/Dave Davies combination) and his is a font of rock'n'roll trivia and a human juke box! Long may he rock'n'roll!

Kenne Highland Interview, Part Two

Part two of head Gizmos Krazee Kenne Highland interview, where he talks more about the Gizmos, his other bands at the time and over the years and his musical tastes.

What do you remember most about the two gigs that we (the Gizmos) did? (cuz I barely remember them at all)

"two Gizmos gigs Friday and Saturday 8 and 9 April 77; left Brockport NY maybe 7 April, I was on leave from the marines (2 April 77, DMZ and Johnny Barnes at Rat!), slept in plastic chair with 25-cent TV sets in Cleveland bus station, Get off in bus in Bloomington, record "Amerika First" and "Gimme Back my Foreskin" whilst WIRED on adrenaline (ok, a combat Marine vocal, Veteren's Day, marine birthday just passed). Friday night gig was a lotta jumpin' round like Iggy (on my part), Saturday 9 April (the better gig, prolly) is a Gulcher CD: John Cougar: "here's PFC Ken Highland" (and a VERY nice write-up in Vulchur or some zine, I thought Coug was a nice guy, at least, MY opinion).

We were Midwest teens aping our idols; my "Mean screen' vocal is SO Iggy and Ted on "I Shoot Up" and my ostrich guitar...we WORSHIPPED the Velvets! I was being SO butch (straight outta boot camp, not Compton!) (HWA;honky with an attitude!), I go "Richard Reigel....another wimp from Creem!" This IS in Creem somewhere, have Mad Max do the goddam research, "too many people Lookin' Back"; tossing in Bob Seger reference coz Dad had a Jacobus uncle went to Pioneer high school like Seger, Iggy and Asheton brothers. Two more items: during a metallic KH version of "Louie Louie", fell off stage and almost into lap of Rich's lil sister, shades of Iggy Academy of Music 31 Dec 73, fell off stage during "I Got Nuthin'" into Slade Parader editor's lap, age 15.

Take greyhound back to Washington DC, stationed at NSA, Kim Kane of Slickee Boys tells me about some band called the Teenage Boys with Ian MacKaye (who the Fugazi is he?) and Saturday 16 April, Rat, Boston, Dead Boys, me and Cheetah Chrome splittin' a joint and Cheetah muttering "always gotta get fucked up before i play" as he's riffin' on his guitar in Rat dressing room; GREAT guy, GREAT guitarist, the midwest can be alright and GLAD to know him...and PISSED off young loud and full of mucus had better sounding guitars! (we shoulda got Goldie Zelkowitz or whatever her name was)....

Kenne's first wedding to Ms. Lyn Cardinal, with members of O.Rex, the Slickee Boys and me in attendance.

 Kenne's wedding reception party at Cantone's, with O.Rex/Afrika Korps playing with Martha Hull of the Slickee Boys and myself sitting in. Real Kids played, as well, hence pic of John Felice, Kenne, Jonathan Richman, Kim Kane (Slickee Boys) and me!

Joining the military and getting married interrupted the Gizmos and the other bands stuff that you were doing - what other projects did you have simultaneously? (O Rex, etc)

"Multi-tasking while Gizmo; guilty! (only I lifted me kilt in court and the judge dismissed the case coz the evidence would no stond oop in c'art!) O. Rex ran from Sunday 3 June 73 til fall '76 when we were so embarrassed by that crappy record, we decided on a name change "like the Dictators" and thus was born Afrika Korps, which lasted ALL of 1977, Jan-Dec with one Indiana weekend (8-9 april 77) to record second and third Gizmos e.p.and do Bloomington library gigs. And I STILL do that! (Been doin' it since '73; western NY classic-rock Brockport NY jamming and Brooklyn NY O. Rex proto-punk!) I do my Gizmos gigs in the midwest and then do my own thang Boston local, though at present have NO gigs on the books! (oops, now those mofos will call me) Gizmos was Indiana but when in Brooklyn NY/Teaneck NJ, I was with the Gruberger brothers and/or Ken Kaiser in O. Rex and Afrika Korps. Does jamming classic rock at Ft. Meade, Maryland with other servicemen count? Inspiration: the ARMY vet James Marshall Hendrix jammin' with Billy Cox; though Ken kaiser was nuthin' more'n a punk-ass college kid whom I met through a fellow marine ("Kenne Highland, why'd you join the marines? You were a big rock star and in Creem"; me: "because i wanted to kill people!"".....

Re: post-Gizmos - can even you remember everything that you’ve done? Africa Korps, The Korps, Kenne Highland Klan, Peecocks, etc etc. Tell a bit about all of these projects.

"Post-Gizmos: Afrika Korps lasted all of 1977, Gulcher released everything, we were Ramones (Solomon Gruberger-influence) meets NY Dolls (my Thunders leads). 1978 was the year of The Korps, me and Kenny Kaiser swapping instruments and the same dude that engineered James Brown's Black Caesar engineered us! Mostly a power-pop album, influenced by that issue of Bomp with power-pop on the cover, kinda Ramones/Jon Richman (Kaiser) meets....Kenne Highland! (I kinda almost came into my own here, though I DID try singing all the vocals like Mach Bell of Thundertrain!) Kenne Highland Clan is basically me doing my originals (name that riff! that I stole!) inspired by the r&b album The Rockin' Highlanders, these black dudes in kilts (by 1988 and the first grandkid had started researching Dad's McBee side, coz, though "born on the wrong side of the blanket", I was told, at HIGHLAND games, I'm a McBee by bluid, so ancient weathered MacBheath is me tartan!). As for the Pee-cocks, that was the Gizmos formula again; gay rock writer fronts NY Dolls IN makeup band and my quip was Jayne County backed up by the NY Dolls; Pee-cocks even DID open for Jayne County in Boston and a lot of good gigs; I even played CBGB's finally!....

(Obviously, there have been many more projects, but I guess that's a tale for another day!)

I know what kind of music you liked pre-Gizmos - what kind of music influenced you over the post-Gizmos years - local/national/international bands that stand out?

"musical tastes: I basically am FROZEN in tyme (and my family tree DNA test DOES confirm Neanderthal western european DNA!) so once I had that first drink of Southern Comfort behind St. Luke's Episcopal in downtown Brockport NY (there was a coffeehouse called the Crypt where a SUNY Brockport student named Bob Richert usedta hang '66-'70) and let's not fergit gittin' stoned at Hot Tuna SUNY Brockport 2 April 73 perhaps...yeah,my fucken head IS a) up me arse b) in '73! so I still dig the same classic rock, maybe I’m a little more country/bluesy/rootsy, but yeah, everything I said in 1976 on that "favorite album" survey Gizmos ' Bob Seger (who attended Pioneer High school, Ann Arbor as did my great-grandfather Highland's Jacobus "Dutch uncle") sez: "still the same" and "call me a relic/call me what you will/say i'm olde-fashion lissenin' to ZZ Hill/today's music aint got no Stax soul/ I thrive on I-IV-V rocknroll"....that's Freestylin' Kenne Highland gittin' ready for me and Bim from Obnox to do a rap record!".....


Part three still to come!

recommended gigs

Thursday Nov 13 - the Astaires at the Bunkhouse

Friday Nov 14 - The Swamp Gospel with Cashed Out, Eddie Bear and the Cubs and the Ditch Diggers at the Beauty Bar

Friday Nov 14 - The Maxies, Mapes, Time Crashers and Alan Six at the Dive Bar
Friday Nov 14 - Jinxy Bear - LVCS

Saturday Nov 15 - the All Togethers at the Dillinger
Saturday Nov 15 - Whitey Morgan and Whiskey Breath at Vinyl Las Vegas

Sunday November 16 - the Psyatics with Water Landing, Har Mar Superstar and Pizza Underground at LV Country Saloon

Thursday Nov 20 - the Astaires at the Beauty Bar with Strange Mistress, Bounty Hunter Brothers and Luna Flore

Friday Nov 21 - Whiskey Breath at the Goldmine Tavern
Friday Nov 21 - Tarah Grace @ Vintage Bike Night at Bar & Bistro

Saturday Nov 22 - the Unwieldies with Roy Zimmerman at Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Las Vegas
Saturday Nov 22 - Jinxy Bear, 3D6, Water Landing and more! - Cheyenne Saloon
Saturday Nov 22 - the All Togethers at the Double Down w/ the Ditch Diggers
Saturday Nov 22 - Push Forward Benefit at the Dive Bar

Wednesday Nov 26 - the Unwieldies at the Griffin with the All Togethers
Wednesday Nov 26 - Thee Swank Bastards Basstravaganza at the Double Down

Friday Dec 5 - the Unwieldies at Boomers
Friday Dec 5 - the All Togethers at Dillingers

Saturday Dec 6 - Love Me Nots at the Dive Bar

Friday Dec 12 - Delta Bombers, Hard Pipe Hitters, Mercy Music, Firewater Folklore, In Fugue Rayner at Artistic Armory

Wednesday Dec 17 - Clydesdale  with Blair Dewane at the Griffin

Saturday Dec 20 - The Swamp Gospel and The Gentlemen of Four Outs at the Double Down Saloon

Saturday Dec 27 - the All Togethers at the Pioneer Saloon

Saturday Jan 10, 2015 - the Psyatics and the Lucky Cheats with the Dictators NYC at LV Country Saloon

What have I forgotten? Lemme know!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kenne Highland interview, Part One

I know that this blog has gained new readers due to my Gizmos’ tour diaries, but those who know me from my 80’s and 90’s bands, or from Las Vegas, most likely do not know too much about the Gizmos, other than a few vague stories I may have told over the years. As teenagers in the mid-70’s, I met Krazee Kenne Highland via his pen-pal correspondence with my then-girlfriend, and, since he then lived just a few hours away, we got together a few times and jammed, by ourselves and with my hard rock band, Cerberus. When his roommate and fanzine partner, Bob Richert, decided that Kenne’s songs should be committed to vinyl, Kenne asked me to join in the festivities and I brought along my band. Several others joined the mayhem and the Gizmos were born!

The band disintegrated after recording three EPs and playing (with various line-ups) three shows. Kenne joined the service, got married, moved to Boston and became a regular feature on the scene there, with innumerable groups and one-off projects (not unlike what I did in LA). Krazee Kenne has slowed down somewhat as we have gotten older, but is still playing, is still a human jukebox, is still a font of trivia, still has a remarkable memory and will still talk excitably to anyone who will listen. And listen you should as his tells his life story!

Kenne writes as he speaks, so I will try to leave it as close to his original scribbles as possible, but will clean up punctuation, etc.There are innumerable lyrical quotes, many from his own songs, so don’t worry if you don’t get something. Just hang on for the ride!

I'm going to make this a multi-part interview as if can be a bit wordy!

Let’s start at the beginning - where and when born, how big of a family do you have, did you move around a lot, etc.?

"KENNETH EDWARD HIGHLAND born Easter Monday 2 April 1956 Quantico Virginia to Cpl. Byron Grant Highland (USMC) and Helen Virginia Blodgett, BOTH descended from two Spencer brothers that founded Hartford,Ct.! "" (a Gee Julie joke;"she's my best bette"!) has now shed light that my parents were descended from THREE of the four Spencer brothers that came to New England in 1600s; "Boston,you're my home". So, as a military brat, I was southern til Sunday 5 December 64, though Dad's Knotts ancestor (yes, Deezen, Barney IS my cuzzin!) arrived at Jamestown 30 sept 1617 (a transported FELON, that's my gangsta ancestry!).

My siblings (who are my cuzzins!) is Thomas Alan Highland born 18 November 58, Camp Lejeune, North Care-lahna (ah learnt to read-n-rite at the Clyde Irwin elemen-terry school in Jacksonville). We lived in Wallace unbeknownst to ML Carr (basketball, Wikipedia fact) and whahl ah wuz a-tend-in' a four room schoolhouse in Manasass,Virgnny Julie Anne Highland born 9 September 63. Ah giss ah got a thang fer Julies...(there's a great-aunt Julia Highland, South Lyon, Michigan farm wife - South Lyon bein' where MITCH RYDER now curently livin' and I count a couple-three generations in that South Lyon cemetery next the Methudist church).

So after Ma left Dad fer his cheatin' ways/cheatin' heart (and I may have a half-brother but get a fucken DNA test, you lil bastard!) we all moved to Clarkson NY (near Rochester) in a fucken snowstorm, with my grandmother and "special needs" uncle/cuzzin, no indoor plumbin'/coal stove and an 1851 house that I had an uncle de-sert the Civil War and help out with the underground railroad...lotta stories from aunts in their 90s STILL livin', but I'm not Alex Highland and Roots, I AM Kenne Highland and there aint but one!"....

What first got you into music / first musical memory?

"first musical memory”: summer 1961 Onslo Beach, North Carolina, Del Shannon's "Runaway" blaring out of someone's transistor radio; it was a bright, sunny day, I was in kindergarten and I remember it well! Ma says me and/or my brother usedta sing nursery rhymes on the toilet plus when Elvis had "wooden shows and happy hearts", Ma said I pernounced it "hahts", so i was already JFK/Boston-bound and in the Tarheel state.

Fall 1964, Ma was a-takin' Uncle Tom Highland (my brother AND cuzzin!) to kind-e-garden in northern Virginny and it was "wow! we heard this great band called the Beatles!" Tom sez it was "She Loves You".  I was still enthralled by the Civil War (and still am! people on BOTH sides!), so after moving "up north" (Clarkson, NY, Sunday 5 December 64), I kinda remember "Ticket to Ride" on AM radio. My cuzzin Janet (best gurl on the planet!) babysat us Highlands coz Ma went to WORK after her divorce; too much Puritan work ethic to be a-settin' round collecting welfare! (I still hear the guilt, oy: "I coulda been on welfare, but I have too much pride; if I hadn’t gotten remarried, we'd be on Skid Row, but Kenneth, you'd probably like that!") (cue up AC/DC's "problem child"!).

Oh, yeah, Janet had the transistor tooned to WBBF-AM, Rochester NY and the Top 40 in 1965; "My God" and I hadn’t even heard Jethro Tull! My Dee-troit grandmother gave us Highland boys lil transistor radio, so age 9, 1965 hearin' Jeff Beck do "Heart Full of Soul" intro....watchin' James Brown do "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" on Where the Action Is coz Janet MADE us watch them teen shows....Lloyd Thaxton; no Upbeat coz I wasn’t in (Reader's digest version): British invasion and "oldies" were early first musical memories, I didn’t get a guitar in 1964 Beatlemania (too busy pretending it was 1864!) but by Christmas 1970, did have my legendary $9 Sears acoustic and back them days that was a lotta money for a single Mom! Cue up Merle Haggard's "Mama tried" coz we're both Aries"....

What was your first guitar / how did you start playing? Did someone teach you or are you self-taught? What was your first band and bands before the Gizmos?

"first guitar,first's a good thing my mother (who IS my cuzzin!) was el presidente of the Clarkson NY historical society (her great-great-great Elijah Blodgett was a Green Mountain Boy and bought the SECOND piece of property in Clarkson NY). SO Giz-storically: 9th grade XMAS,1970; Ma buys me a $9 Sears acoustic and I try to be the Freewheeling Ken Highland complete with harmonica rack made of a coat hanger (western NY winters are VERY long and VERY boring) plus even borrowed Ma's lipstick holder to play slide ala "In My Tyme of Dyin'"! (My mother as Suzi Rotolo; HOPELESSLY Obscure!) Matthew J. Sabo, whom was in my class (Brockport High '74) worked with me, so, like the ole blues guys he showed me barre chords off Sabbath Paranoid, Grand Funk Red Album plus some Zeppelin II: MY intro to "da blooze". Matty still playin' in Rochester, look up THE PARTY DOGS and other bands. Matty talked me, summer '71, into buying a Chuck Berry-lookin' $98 hollow body electric and first amp bought at House of Guitars! So 10th grade ='71-'72, early '72,s ome Gizmos songs were written! Fall of '73, Matty's buddy, William Aloyius MacLaughlin (BHS '73 and him and Matty called me "Gizmo") sold me a $35 solid-body Japanese axe and tried teaching me the Johnny Winter intro of "Johnny B. Goode". Jammin' with some Brockport stoners in this tyme, classic rock BUT Sunday 3 June 73, got to play Yardbirds/Alice Cooper toons with the Gruberger Brothers (O. Rex!) Bill MacLaughlin's $35 electric is on the O. Rex "gimme shelter" (Gulcher). otherwise, I think I just jammed along with classic rock ALBUMS (VINYL!) and 8-tracks, but I was a "bedroom" guitarist til Bob Richert "discovered" me ("it was the trousers").....

How did you start fanzine writing - what zines did you do?

"fanzine writing: Davey "Roscoe" Medlock has the late '71 circus where a bored Ken Highland age 15 looks for penpals; now I do facebook! 1971 penpals: Solomon Gruberger (RIP), Kevin Allin (Junenberg, VT, ,my cuzzin and RIP), Frank J. Lima, THE biggest Kinks fan,l iving and on Facebook and Albion NY Kinks fan Tom Taber. he showed me December '71 a Bomp with Kinks article; Big Al Baase (known since age 10,Brockport NY, RIP) declared we were gonna do a fanzine called Rock On. That and buying Stooges Funhouse for $3.49 at Vince's Record Shoppe, Brockport NY got me out of classic rock, kinda. I wrote for a shitload of 'zines that ONLY Eddie Flowers can remember, currently write for Boston Groupie News or whoever wants to lissen to my long, rambling bullshit and i basically did NOT do my homework, but spent high school writing for fanzines, though email is SO much easier; typing was a bitch back then!"....

How did you initially get in touch with Lynn and me?

"getting in touch with Lynn Riechers and Rich Coffee: maybe the fall of '74, Cary Baker mentioned my fanzine possibly in the Illinois Entertainer and I got midwestern penpal subscribers (c'mon man it HAS been 40 years! holy shit!) so Lynn Riechers, Highland High '76, maybe and I are pen pals between Highland, Indiana (no relation) and Blodgett-port NY (actually Brockport but there are SO damn many Blodgetts, trust me), from my stoned-out look from the crowds, rolling doobies on the Paranoid gatefold, I maybe first told Lynn I was moving to Bloomington, Indiana (May '75), so it was "hey come up and visit" and "my boyfriend plays guitar".

OK, we all finally meet October '75, so in some park in Highland, Indiana, Coffee meets Highland who's wearing torn blue jeans with a smiley-face sew on! (hey, $5 in Bloomington; aye, lads, I LOOOVE a barrrrr-ginnn!) jam at Sulak's basement, me on bass and as I write this on my Facebook friend Pat Daughtery's birthday, I light into a Jay Biancucci version of "When Electricity Comes to Arkansas"! Then the Brownsville Station version of "Roadrunner", maybe me on guitar, Rich on bass...I think "damn this guy's good!" AND "hey man you sound like (my Facebook friend!) Leigh Stephens"! "who's Leigh Stephens?" Once i got back to Bloomington, $1 copy of Outside/Inside mailed to Highland, Indiana and it's a Rich Coffee desert island disc!

But that's the initial meeting and Cary Baker maybe subscribe to my rock on fanzine, me high school, him college, friends on Facebook and Greg Shaw (!) mentioned my fanzine in an early '73 Crawdaddy and I still have living Facebook friends through that! (too many friends; i need a few enemies! hahahahhahahha)"....

Tell how the Gizmos came about - how it started and how did all of the Gizmos get involved and why? How did you meet/what made you invite Eddie, Davey, Ted, etc?

" how the Gizmos came equals Richard Nixon's second term PLUS Gerald Ford! Eddie and I became penpals through Boogie fanzine (John Bialas alive and on Facebook!) about September '72; I met all my fanzine buddies summer '74 after high school, so hung with Eddie July '74; we're in Chicago lissenin' to T. Rex, decide to be "the rockabilly yobs". Jam a couple tymes with Rich Coffee october '75 and 31 Jan 75; meet Ted Niemeic Friday 5 Dec 75 coz Mr. Bear had a spare Tubes ticket (?); anyway Ted and I jam on Kiss toons and Mr. Malcolm MacBear-Lair-en; "you and Ted should form a band called the Gizmos"(my high school nickname). Then Bear wants to do a record! So I guess i started recruiting people; Rich writes "not without my band", so "Cerberus joined them, that's Rich, Rick, Dave and Jim" as you slow-dance to "ballade of ye Gizmos" after slam-dancin' in Cleveland. Eddie Flowers sez Davey Medlock added coz we all met at Patti Smith/MX-80, Bloomington Sunday 14 march 76. And the original Lynyrd Skynyrd had Ricky Medlocke, so all good bands have 3 guitars and a Medlocke! ("Gizmo, keep tokin' and keep on playin' the guitar"; my 1974 yearbook, Bran T. MacLAUGHLIN). SO that octet went into the studio Saturday 20 March 76, Paul Kosoff of Free had died day before and Alice Cooper got married in Hawaii that day!".....